Invoking the Spirits of the Ruling Ancestors in the New Kingdom Temples: A Veneration Ritual in Ancient Egypt


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The veneration of the souls (bAw) of the rulers is a subject of constant interest to the Egyptians from the time of the Old Kingdom. The souls (bAw) of Pe and Nekhen are the prototype of the powerful pre-dynastic protectors of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt. In the Pyramid Texts, they played a great protective role in the ascension of the deceased king to his celestial throne in the sky. Iconographically, they are portrayed kneeling in the henu-jubilation gesture to praise the living monarch. During the New Kingdom, the living kings used to participate in several rituals, practiced in special places dedicated to exalt the ruling ancestors in the temples of Karnak, Abydos, Ramesseum, and Medinet Habu. This paper sheds light on a veneration ritual performed in a particular place in the temples, called the Chamber of Ancestors, where kings Thutmose III, Seti I, Ramesses II, and Ramesses III appear as living sovereigns and invoke the spirits of the ruling ancestors to bless their divine right of kingship and to legitimize their ascension to the throne. There are several contributing/additional deities related to the concepts of rebirth, stability, and fertility in this ritual, including the composite god Ptah-Sokar-Osiris and the god Min. In general, the ancient Egyptians believed that the well-ordered cosmos should be controlled by a powerful king who inherited his divine rule on earth from his royal ancestors, whose bodies are manifestations of the god Horus and their souls (bAw?) follow the gods in their heavenly realm. Thus, invoking and venerating the souls (bAw) of the ancestors of the ruling kings by their royal lawful descendants in New Kingdom temples secured the rightfulness of the hierarchy and confirmed their readiness to protect their descendants from any possible enemy by adopting the obligations of a subordinate toward the royal ancestors.

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